Sharon Olds and Confessional Poetry

Essay by shellyeahCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2006

download word file, 7 pages 0.0

Downloaded 31 times

The twentieth century was a period of great change - rapid industrialization, the growth of sophisticated technology and the realization of the subconscious, as discovered by psychoanalysis psychology founder, Sigmund Freud. Because of the ever changing times, the arts also began to evolve. More specifically, poetry began to adapt to our increasingly self-conscience universe and so the style of confessional poetry was born. The movement started in the late 1950s-early 1960s with writers such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. The subject matter focused on extremely intimate details of the writers' lives and introduced the pronoun "I" to poetry.

One of the most prominent examples of a confessional poet is Sharon Olds, however more modern her work may be. Much like predecessor Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds' poetry is fueled by a love-hate struggle towards her father and her other familial relationships. Sharon Olds writes confessional poetry using intimate details of human existence, often seemingly autobiographical.

For example, in a poem from her book titled The Father, she writes:

I have learned to get pleasure from speaking of pain.

Olds' work is primarily focused on her family, especially her relationship with her father. There is sparse biographical information available, however it has been speculated that herself and her sister were both abused by him. Regardless, anger towards her father is undeniably evident in her earliest works, including this excerpt from the title poem from her book Satan Says, in which she writes:

Say shit, say death, say fuck the father,

Satan says, down my ear.

The pain of the locked past buzzes

in the child's box on her bureau, under

the terrible round pond eye

etched around roses, where

self-loathing gazed at sorrow.

Her use of vulgarity introduces and prepares the reader for the deeply...